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Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syria War?

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | July 25, 2017

Israel, which has played a precarious role in the Syrian war since 2011, is furious to learn that the future of the conflict is not to its liking.

The six-year-old Syria war is moving to a new stage, perhaps its final. The Syrian regime is consolidating its control over most of the populated centers, while Daesh is losing ground fast – and everywhere.

Areas evacuated by the rapidly disintegrated militant group are up for grabs. There are many hotly contested regions sought over by the government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and its allies, on the one hand, and the various anti-Assad opposition groups and their supporters, on the other.

With Daesh largely vanquished in Iraq – at an extremely high death toll of 40,000 people in Mosul alone – warring parties there are moving west. Shia militias, emboldened by the Iraq victory, have been pushing westward as far as the Iraq-Syria border, converging with forces loyal to the Syrian government on the other side.

Concurrently, first steps at a permanent ceasefire are bearing fruit, compared to many failed attempts in the past.

Following a ceasefire agreement between the United States and Russia on 7 July at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, three provinces in southwestern Syria – bordering Jordan and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – are now relatively quiet. The agreement is likely to be extended elsewhere.

The Israeli government has made it clear to the US that it is displeased with the agreement, and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been leading strong efforts to undermine the ceasefire.

Netanyahu’s worst fears are, perhaps, actualizing: a solution in Syria that would allow for a permanent Iranian and Hezbollah presence in the country.

In the early phases of the war, such a possibility seemed remote; the constantly changing fortunes in Syria’s brutal combat made the discussion altogether irrelevant.

But things have now changed.

Despite assurances to the contrary, Israel has always been involved in the Syria conflict. Israel’s repeated claims that “it maintains a policy of non-intervention in Syria’s civil war,” only fools US mainstream media US mainstream media.

Not only was Israel involved in the war, it also played no role in the aid efforts, nor did it ever extend a helping hand to Syrian refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have perished in the merciless war; many cities and villages were totally destroyed and millions of Syrians have become refugees.

While tiny and poor Lebanon has hosted over a million Syrian refugees, every country in the region and many nations around the world have hosted Syrian refugees, as well. Except Israel.

Even a symbolic government proposal to host 100 Syrian orphans was eventually dropped.

However, the nature of the Israeli involvement in Syria is starting to change. The ceasefire, the growing Russian clout and the inconsistent US position has forced Israel to redefine its role.

A sign of the times has been Netanyahu’s frequent visits to Moscow, to persuade the emboldened Russian President, Vladimir Putin, of Israel’s interests.

While Moscow is treading carefully, unlike Washington it hardly perceives Israeli interests as paramount. When Israel shot down a Syrian missile using an arrow missile last March, the Israeli ambassador to Moscow was summoned for reprimand.

The chastising of Israel took place only days after Netanyahu visited Moscow and “made it clear” to Putin that he wants to “prevent any Syrian settlement from leaving ‘Iran and its proxies with a military presence’ in Syria.”

Since the start of the conflict, Israel wanted to appear as if in control of the situation, at least regarding the conflict in southwestern Syria. It bombed targets in Syria as it saw fit, and casually spoke of maintaining regular contacts with certain opposition groups.

In recent comments before European officials, Netanyahu admitted to striking Iranian convoys in Syria ‘dozens of times.”

But without a joint Israeli-US plan, Israel is now emerging as a weak party. Making that realization quite belatedly, Israel has become increasingly frustrated. After years of lobbying, the Obama Administration refused to [openly] regard Israel’s objectives in Syria as the driving force behind his government’s policies.

Failing to obtain such support from newly-elected President Donald Trump as well, Israel is now attempting to develop its own independent strategy.

On June 18, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has been giving “secret aid” to Syrian rebels, in the form of “cash and humanitarian aid.”

The New York Times reported on July 20 of large shipments of Israeli aid that is “expected to (give) ‘glimmer of hope’ for Syrians.”

Needless to say, giving hope to Syrians is not an Israeli priority. Aside from the frequent bombing and refusal to host any refugees, Israel has occupied the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967 and illegally annexed the territory in 1981.

Instead, Israel’s aim is to infiltrate southern Syria to create a buffer against Iranian, Hezbollah and other hostile forces.

Termed “Operation Good Neighbor,” Israel is working diligently to build ties with various heads of tribes and influential groups in that region.

Yet, the Israeli plan appears to be a flimsy attempt at catching up, as Russia and the US, in addition to their regional allies, seem to be converging on an agreement independent from Israel’s own objectives or even security concerns.

Israeli officials are angry, and feel particularly betrayed by Washington. If things continue to move in this direction, Iran could soon have a secured pathway connecting Tehran to Damascus and Beirut,

Israeli National Security Council head, Yaakov Amidror, threatened in a recent press conference that his country is prepared to move against Iran in Syria, alone.

Vehemently rejecting the ceasefire, Amidror said that the Israeli army will “intervene and destroy every attempt to build (permanent Iranian) infrastructure in Syria.”

Netanyahu’s equally charged statements during his European visit also point at the growing frustration in Tel Aviv.

This stands in sharp contrast from the days when the neoconservatives in Washington managed the Middle East through a vision that was largely, if not fully, consistent with Israeli impulses.

The famed strategy paper prepared by a US study group led by Richard Perle in 1996 is of little use now, as the region is no longer shaped by a country or two.

The paper entitled: “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, saw a hostile Arab world masterfully managed by US and Israel.

For a fleeting moment, Tel Aviv hoped that Trump would bring about change to the US attitude.

Indeed, there was that euphoric movement in Israel when the Trump administration struck Syria. But the limited nature of the strike made it clear that the US had no plans for massive military deployment similar to that of Iraq in 2003.

The initial excitement was eventually replaced by cynicism as expressed by this headline in al Monitor:Netanyahu puts Trump on notice over Syria.”

In 1982, taking advantage of sectarian conflicts, Israel invaded Lebanon and installed a government led by its allies. Those days are long gone.

While Israel remains militarily strong, the region itself has changed and Israel is not the only power holding all the cards.

Moreover, the receding global leadership of the US under Trump makes the Israeli-American duo less effective.

With no alternative allies influential enough to fill the gap, Israel is left, for the first time, with very limited options.

With Russia’s determined return to the Middle East, and the decided retreat by the US, the outcome of the Syria war is almost a foregone conclusion. Surely, this is not the ‘new Syria’ that Israel had hoped for.

Read: Israel’s new occupation zone in Syria

July 25, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Palestinians, B’nai Brith and Canada’s New Democratic Party

Niki Ashton injects vital ideas and principles into the NDP leadership campaign

Niki Ashton. Image credit: Matt Jiggins/ flickr
By Prof. Tony Hall | American Herald Tribune | July 24, 2017

Like many NATO countries, Canada has suffered from an impoverishment of free and open debate when it comes to the issue of relations with the Israeli government and the Palestinian people. In country after country the Israeli lobby dominates not only governing parties but opposition parties as well.

The Canadian Parliament has epitomized the pattern. Elected federal officials have conspicuously failed to reflect the anxieties felt by many Canadians of conscience who have managed to become well informed on Palestinian-Israeli relations. There has been little in Canadian parliamentary debates or in mainstream media reports to reflect the views of those most attuned to the unmitigated suffering of Palestinian people under the jack-booted authoritarianism of Israeli domination.

In recent years the Liberals and Conservatives and the New Democrats (NDP) have maintained a blind eye towards Israeli assaults on the Palestinian people especially in Gaza and in the Occupied Territories seized through Israeli conquest a half century ago. Typically Canadian parliamentarians parrot one another across party lines on the sanctity of the “Israeli right of self-defence.” Concurrently our elected representatives mostly fail to notice that Palestinians share with all peoples a basic human right to protect themselves against systematic bouts of dispossession, disempowerment, mass incarcerations, and industrial-scale military murders sometimes heartlessly described as “cutting the grass.”

In 2016 Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined with the Conservative Party of Canada in backing a motion to condemn all groups and individuals supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at penalizing Israel for its anti-Palestinian infractions. Only one federal party, the diminutive Bloc Québécois, has openly argued that “the BDS campaign constitutes legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.

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Tom Mulcair. Image credit: United Steelworkers/ flickr

In the prelude to the federal election of 2015 Tom Mulcair, the leader of the party that is supposed to embody Canadian social democracy, highlighted his own attachment to Zionist extremism by purging the New Democratic Party of federal candidates who expressed support for Palestinian rights. For Mulcair, those seeking to represent the NDP under his leadership were punished for noticing that the United Nations agencies had accused the Israeli Defence Force of “war crimes” in the military invasions of Gaza in 2009 and 2014.

The NDP’s venerable veteran parliamentarian, Libby Davies, was an early casualty of Tom Mulcair’s marked bias in taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Other casualties included Morgan Wheeldon, Jerry Natanine and Paul Manly, the son of long-serving NDP parliamentarian and United Church clergyman, James Manly. The son’s alleged crime was to have called for the release of his father from custody after the elder Manly was arrested in a Finnish ship carrying humanitarian supplies through the Israeli-enforced blockade encircling Gaza.

B’nai Brith Canada versus NDP Leadership Candidate, Niki Ashton

Is the conformist complacency in the glum parliamentary proceedings concerning Palestine and Israel about to come to an end? Perhaps that change will occur if a spark of controversy in the NDP leadership race ignites wider debate on such crucial issues of Canadian public policy.

The contest to replace Tom Mulcair is showing signs of vibrancy that began with a clash of interpretations pitting NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton’s pro-Palestinian politics against B’nai Brith Canada. B’nai Brith Canada is the local extension of the US and Israeli-based Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

Ms. Ashton represents a huge and largely Aboriginal riding in the northern part of the Canadian province of Manitoba. As many see it, Ms. Ashton’s convictions concerning the importance of Palestinian rights are a natural extension of her representation in Parliament of so many Indian and Metis people. In both Canada and the Middle East, Indigenous peoples share similar perspectives on the incursions of newcomers bent on asserting ownership and control over their Aboriginal lands.

The conflict between Niki Ashton and B’nai Brith Canada has much to do with how disparate perceptions of history impinge on contemporary politics. The nub of the current dispute has to do with Palestinian perceptions of the founding acts of the new Jewish state in 1948 as a “catastrophe,” as the “Nakba” in Arabic. The Palestinian view of the Nabka is very close to the Jewish perception of the Shoah. Shoah is the Hebrew term to identify the disaster engulfing European Jewry during World War II.

In 1998 Yasser Arafat instituted May 15 as Nakba Day. The timing was meant as a response to the annual commemoration on May 14 of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. As many Palestinians see it, the founding of Israel led to the initial violent displacement of about 700,000 of their people, almost half of the Palestinian population at that time.

Deir Yassin ca7a1

The horror of the Israeli military assault was epitomized by the murderous atrocities committed at Deir Yassin of the Irgun and Lehi militias. Led by a future Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, Irgun and Lehi had been instrumental in displacing the British administrators of colonial Palestine through a hugely publicized act of international terrorism at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946.

In reflecting on this history, NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton announced on her Facebook page,

For more than 60 years, Palestine has been struggling to simply exist. Many in our country have been fighting in solidarity for many years. This week in Montreal I was honoured to stand with many in remembering the Nakba. It was also powerful to join many at a rally in solidarity with those on hunger strike in Palestine today. The NDP must be a voice for human rights, for peace and justice in the Middle East. I am inspired by all those who in our country are part of this struggle for justice.

Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, responded as follows to Ms. Ashton’s actions and comments. In a Toronto Sun opinion piece Mr. Mostyn observed,

The re-emergence of the Jewish State in 1948 is a miraculous story of indigenous survival and resilience, not a “catastrophe” to be mourned.

Mr. Mostyn’s rejection of the Nakba narrative harkens back to many similar divergences when it comes to the position of Indigenous peoples on a variety of commemorations in the colonized world. Not surprisingly, Native groups often have severe problems and reservations when they are asked to join in anniversary celebrations of, say, 1492, or 1776, or 1867.

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Michael Mostyn doing in interview with Christina Stevens, 2016. Image courtesy of Twitter

Not satisfied to stop at insisting that the founding of the Jewish State must be universally embraced, even by the Palestinians, as a “miraculous” event to be lauded, he goes on to attempt to turn the tables on groups he clearly sees as classes of criminals. Mr. Mostyn thereby seeks to transform the Palestinian memory of the Nakba into the lionization of an Israeli military campaign to clear aside the human obstacles to Israeli ascendance. He writes,

Had Jewish forces not prevailed [in 1948], the likely result would have been another genocide of the land’s Jewish inhabitants, just after the Holocaust, by invading Arab armies who had sworn to exterminate them.

In a news item on B’nai Brith Canada’s own web site Mr. Mostyn adds

To suggest that we should commemorate and mourn the Arab world’s inability to successfully commit a genocide against the Jewish people is beyond comprehension.

In her Facebook post Ms. Ashton combined her comments on the Nakba with a reference to Palestinian hunger strikers currently making their stand throughout the elaborate Israeli prison system. Mr. Mostyn treats this act of protest with contempt. He accuses Ms. Ashton of joining in solidarity with “convicted murders,” with her “advocating for vile terrorists.” The B’nai Brith CEO fails to mention in his remarks on the hunger strike that many of the thousands of jailed Palestinians are being held for months and even for years under “administrative detention certificates.” They have been jailed but not charged with any crime.

Mr. Mostyn concludes by condemning Ms. Ashton as the possessor of “a defective moral compass.” He asserts

Ms. Ashton’s comments are a shocking and insulting departure from the traditional position of her party and those of mainstream Canadians…. Every Canadian, and every honest NDP supporter, should be shocked by Ashton’s ignorance, callousness, and blatant double-standards… Her ignorance as to the reality of the situation in Israel, particularly when it comes to the hunger strike of convicted murderers, is alarming from someone aspiring to be leader of this country.

Who Is Out of Step with the Opinions of Mainstream Canada?

Yves Engler has closely studied the controversy and concluded that it has worked in the favour of Niki Ashton’s leadership campaign and against the credibility of B’nai Brith Canada. He observes that the B’nai Brith backed down once it realized that its interest in Ms. Ashton’s politics was feeding a broader discussion rather than discrediting its target. Engler writes,

Their silence on Ashton’s recent moves is deafening. B’nai B’rith is effectively conceding that their previous attacks backfired and they now fear drawing further attention to Ashton’s position since it would likely strengthen her standing among those voting for the next NDP leader.

Reflecting on the experience Engler observes,

The first ever pregnant major party leadership candidate in Canadian political history has gained this support by speaking truth to power and taking a principled position on an issue most politicians have shied away from. And, she has demonstrated that the purpose of Israeli nationalist attacks is to silence them, not to have a debate. In fact, real debate is what organizations like B’nai B’rith fear the most because the more people know about Israel and the Occupied Territories, the more they support the Palestinian cause.

https://electronicintifada.net/content/why-canadas-ndp-supporting-israeli-racism/20576

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/yves-engler/ndp-foreign-policy_b_15430872.html

The injection of Israeli and Palestinian issues into the NDP leadership campaign is a promising development that is attracting considerable attention domestically and internationally. This turn of events holds out the promise of bringing the parliamentary facet of Canadian social democracy more into line with the existing Middle East policies of agencies like the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Canadian Labour Congress and student groups like the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario.

The enthusiasm generated by open debate is proving to be infectious. About 80 prominent academics and community activists have come up with an open letter urging the NDP to formulate a more balanced, enlightened and intelligent Middle East policy. Among those who signed the document are Noam Chomsky and former UN special rapporteur on Israel-Palestine, Prof. Richard Falk. The letter concludes with a list of proposals indicating,

WE propose that the New Democratic Party of Canada commit to the following, both in opposition and in government:

1. condemning Israeli settlements as a violation of international law and as an impediment to a just resolution;

2. calling upon the State of Israel to halt any further settlement construction, respect the political and civil rights of its Palestinian citizens, pursue a fair solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees, lift its blockade on Gaza and end its military occupation of the Palestinian Territories;

3. calling upon legitimate representatives of the State of Israel and the Palestinian people to negotiate in good faith a just resolution that respects the spirit and intentions of UNGA Resolution 194 and UNSC Resolution 242;

4. pursuing and supporting the use of diplomatic and economic means to exert pressure on the State of Israel in such a manner as to achieve a just resolution. This includes:

> using Canada’s stature and position in the international community to push for meaningful progress on the topic of Israel and Palestine

> renegotiating the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement in such a manner as to divert from the Canadian market any product made in Israeli settlements

> suspending security trade and cooperation between Canada and Israel indefinitely and until the Gaza siege is lifted, the occupation ends and a just peace is achieved

> revoking the tax-exempt status of any organization operating within Canada that is known to financially support or benefit from Israel’s military occupation

> requesting that the International Criminal Court give greater attention to the situation in Israel and Palestine

> recognizing the State of Palestine

B’nai Brith Canada accuses Ms. Ashton of making “a shocking and insulting departure from the traditional position of her party and those of mainstream Canadians.” Yves Engler and others conclude otherwise. They allege it is B’nai Brith Canada that is increasingly out of step with mainstream opinion of well informed Canadians.

I agree. Certainly I continue to be dismayed at B’nai Brith Canada’s deployment of the hate speech deceptions of Joshua Goldberg in the initiation of a campaign of smear and disinformation against me. The campaign began with a publicity stunt based on the planting on my Facebook wall of a reprehensible Facebook post whose origins go back not to me but to Joshua Goldberg and quite possibly to B’nai Brith Canada and related agencies.

Some explanations are in order from the responsible parties. The time is past when Mr. Mostyn can play the victim card when the B’nai Brith is so deeply implicated in hate speech victimization of others. To accuse an attractive and rising social democratic politician like Niki Ashton of “advocating for vile terrorists” is a blasphemy of a high order. Taking the side of oppressed groups over the side of their oppressors is not only legitimate but laudable in the context of these dangerous times through which we are living.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Baghdad seeking ‘substantial’ Russian military & political presence in Iraq – vice-president

RT | July 24, 2017

Russian military and political presence in Iraq would bring balance to the whole Middle Eastern and North African region, Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi vice-president, said during his visit to Moscow.

“It’s well known that Russia has historically strong relations with Iraq, therefore we would like Russia to have a substantial presence in our country, both politically and militarily,” al-Maliki said during his meeting with the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko.

“This way, a balance would be established that would benefit the region, its peoples and its countries,” he added.

The vice president said that Baghdad wants to boost relations with Moscow as it believes “in Russia’s role in solving most of the key international issues as well as improving stability and balance in our region and worldwide.”

Matviyenko, in turn, praised the commitment of the current Iraqi authorities to widening their cooperation with Moscow.

“Russia is also determined to expand its interaction with Iraq both politically and economically as well as in the military-technical sphere, and, of course, on the parliamentary level,” she said.

In his talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, earlier Monday, al-Maliki stressed that a Russian presence in Iraq would bring the balance which couldn’t be “undermined in a political sense in favor of any external party.”

“Today we need Russia’s greater involvement in Iraqi affairs, especially in the energy field. Now when we are done with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Iraq needs investments in energy and trade,” he said.

Earlier in July, the Iraqi authorities announced that the last IS stronghold in the country, Mosul, had been fully liberated from the terrorists, following an eight-months-long campaign backed by the US-led coalition.

Al-Maliki told Lavrov that Moscow and Baghdad “should enhance… cooperation in countering terrorism in the region.”

“We believe that both our countries are targets for terrorists and those who stand behind them,” al-Maliki said.

Moscow supports the efforts of the Iraqi authorities to “normalize the situation in the country, first of all aiming at eradicating the terrorist threat,” Lavrov said.

It’s vital that Baghdad’s struggle isn’t carried out in isolation, but is carried on in the context of international efforts to eradicate the terrorist threat across the globe, including in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and other countries, the Russian FM added.

Al-Maliki is also travelling to St. Petersburg, where he’s expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel: Amman embassy killer guard has diplomatic immunity

Press TV – July 24, 2017

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says its embassy security guard, who killed two Jordanians in the city of Amman, has diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention in response to Jordan demanding an investigation.

The security man shot dead a Jordanian who allegedly attacked him with a screwdriver at the Israeli embassy staff residence in Amman on Sunday and accidentally killed a second Jordanian.

The assailant was said to be delivering furniture to the building while the second victim was the property owner. The Israeli security guard only sustained light injuries in Sunday’s incident.

Jordanian authorities have refused to allow the guard to leave the country and demanded an investigation into the deadly shooting.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry, however, claimed in a statement on Monday that the guard had “acted in self-defense” and had immunity from questioning and prosecution.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in contact with the head of the embassy and the guard, the statement read.

“The Foreign Ministry and security officials are working via different channels with the government of Jordan,” it added.

A security source in Amman said the first Jordanian, 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh, succumbed to his injuries at the scene. The second, Bashar Hamarneh, a doctor who was in the residential quarter of the embassy at the time of the incident died of his injuries after midnight in hospital.

The incident came at a time of heightened tensions over Israel’s imposition of restrictive measures at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians say the restrictions are meant to expand the Tel Aviv regime’s control over the highly-sensitive site and change its status quo.

Jordan, the custodian of the compound, has protested the fresh Israeli measures.

Tensions erupted on July 14, when a deadly shooting took place outside the Haram al-Sharif which Jews call Temple Mount.

Following the incident, Israeli police briefly shut down the al-Aqsa compound and canceled Muslim Friday prayers at the holy site.

Israel reopened the compound on July 16, but with metal detectors and surveillance cameras put up at entrances.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

American Armored Vehicles Are Pouring into Raqqa, But Who Are They For?

© East News/ Michael Curvin
Sputnik – 21.07.2017

Footage has surfaced online depicting flatbed tracks laden with American armored military vehicles passing through Syria, with conflicting commentary claiming that the materiel was bound for use by either US-backed Syrian militant groups or US troops themselves fighting Daesh in the city of Raqqa.

The photos and videos were uploaded by Syrian Kurdish activists who are known affiliates of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF.) The vehicles included Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, Mine-Resistant All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs) and armored bulldozers. They were mounted on the backs of flatbed trucks and were filmed passing through Qamishli, 170 miles northeast of Raqqa.

​All three vehicle types were previously mentioned in Pentagon reports as assets being supplied to SDF fighters. “Up-armored vehicles have been delivered to the SDF and [Syrian Arab Coalition] as part of our existing authorities to enable them,” a spokesperson for US operations in Syria told Task & Purpose.

​”Specifically, these vehicles will help them contend with [Daesh’s] IED threat in their current operation, and as they move to isolate [Raqqa].” Mine-resistant vehicles are deployed against areas known to hide improvised explosive devices, which are a major danger to American soldiers riding in armored vehicles. At least half of all US casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan have been attributed to IEDs.

​However, the spokesperson went on to tell Task & Purpose that MRAPs and M-ATVs were “not part of the package that is divested to the SDF.” The Military Times noted that the M-ATVs were mounted with Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWs) systems, which allow for operators to fire the M-ATV’s mounted.50 cal machine gun without exposing themselves to enemy fire. CROWS systems also weren’t provided to SDF fighters.

​Instead, the vehicles “are for use by the Coalition to protect our forces from IEDs.” In other words, the Pentagon claims these armored vehicles are for use by Western operators, not SDF militants.

Under the Trump administration, there has been an uptick in American support for the SDF, a coalition of various militias. Since June, the SDF have besieged Raqqa, Daesh’s final stronghold in Syria. Although Daesh has mounted intense resistance, the SDF has encircled the city and is slowly but surely gaining ground. The deeper the SDF go into the city, however, the stiffer the defenses they find awaiting them.

“The SDF has reportedly encountered intensified resistance and ‘better-emplaced defenses’ over the past four weeks following initial rapid gains in districts on the outskirts of [Raqqa],” read a new report from the Institute for the Study of War.

Although the US support for SDF operations is common knowledge, the Pentagon has been very cagey about providing details of American operations. They only directly confirmed the presence of US advisers in Raqqa five weeks into the siege, for instance.

The largest and most prominent militia among them are the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey, a nominal US ally, considers the YPG to be a terrorist group, which the US denies. The Syrian Kurds and the Turkish military have become increasingly belligerent to one another, with some exchanges of gunfire along the Syrian-Turkish border. Ankara has stated in no uncertain terms that they will never support a Kurdish state on their border.

The armored vehicles may then serve a purpose beyond helping to bring an end to the Daesh occupation. They may also be the Pentagon looking ahead to the wars of tomorrow.

July 21, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Is Iran in Our Gun Sights Now?

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • July 21, 2017

“Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement and appeasement is surrender.”

Thus does our Churchill, Newt Gingrich, dismiss, in dealing with Iran, the policy of containment crafted by George Kennan and pursued by nine U.S. presidents to bloodless victory in the Cold War.

Why is containment surrender? “Because freedom is threatened everywhere so long as this dictatorship stays in power,” says Gingrich.

But how is our freedom threatened by a regime with 3 percent of our GDP that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president?

Fortunately, Gingrich has found a leader to bring down the Iranian regime and ensure the freedom of mankind. “In our country that was George Washington and … the Marquis de Lafayette. In Italy it was Garibaldi,” says Gingrich.

Whom has he found to rival Washington and Garibaldi? Says Gingrich, “Maryam Rajavi.”

Who is she? The leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which opposed the Shah, broke with the old Ayatollah, collaborated with Saddam Hussein, and, until 2012, was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

At the NCRI conference in Paris in July where Gingrich spoke, and the speaking fees were reportedly excellent, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani were also on hand.

Calling Iran’s twice-elected President Hassan Rouhani, “a violent, vicious murderer,” Giuliani said, “the time has come for regime change.”

Bolton followed suit. “Tehran is not merely a nuclear weapons threat, it is not merely a terrorist threat, it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region,” he said. Hence, “the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran.”

We will all celebrate in Tehran in 2019, Bolton assured the NCRI faithful.

Good luck. Yet, as The New York Times said yesterday, all this talk, echoed all over this capital, is driving us straight toward war. “A drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions — from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists — is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran.”

Is this what America wants or needs — a new Mideast war against a country three times the size of Iraq?

After Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, would America and the world be well-served by a war with Iran that could explode into a Sunni-Shiite religious war across the Middle East?

Bolton calls Iran “a nuclear weapons threat.”

But in 2007, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies declared with high confidence Iran had no nuclear weapons program. They stated this again in 2011. Under the nuclear deal, Iran exported almost all of its uranium, stopped enriching to 20 percent, shut down thousands of centrifuges, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor, and allows U.N. inspectors to crawl all over every facility.

Is Iran, despite all this, operating a secret nuclear weapons program? Or is this War Party propaganda meant to drag us into another Mideast war?

To ascertain the truth, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call the heads of the CIA and DIA, and the Director of National Intelligence, to testify in open session.

We are told we are menaced also by a Shiite Crescent rising and stretching from Beirut to Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

And who created this Shiite Crescent?

It was George W. Bush who ordered the Sunni regime of Saddam overthrown, delivering Iraq to its Shiite majority. It was Israel whose invasion and occupation of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 gave birth to the Shiite resistance now known as Hezbollah.

As for Bashar Assad in Syria, his father sent troops to fight alongside Americans in the Gulf War.

The Ayatollah’s regime, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij militia are deeply hostile to this country. But Iran does not want war with the United States — for the best of reasons. Iran would be smashed like Iraq, and its inevitable rise, as the largest and most advanced country on the Persian Gulf, would be aborted.

Moreover, we have interests in common: Peace in the Gulf, from which Iran’s oil flows and without which Iran cannot grow, as Rouhani intends, by deepening Iran’s ties to Europe and the advanced world.

And we have enemies in common: ISIS, al-Qaida and all the Sunni terrorists whose wildest dream is to see their American enemies fight their Shiite enemies.

Who else wants a U.S. war with Iran, besides ISIS?

Unfortunately, their number is legion: Saudis, Israelis, neocons and their think tanks, websites and magazines, hawks in both parties on Capitol Hill, democracy crusaders, and many in the Pentagon who want to deliver payback for what the Iranian-backed Shiite militias did to us in Iraq.

President Trump is key. If he does the War Party’s bidding, that will be his legacy, as the Iraq War is the legacy of George W. Bush.

Copyright 2017 Creators.com.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Trump ends CIA arms to Salafists in Syria

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | July 19, 2017

Today, two reports emerged within minutes of each other which indicate that under Donald Trump, the United States has fully shifted its policies in Syria away from arming and aiding Salafist/jihadist terrorist fighters and is now allying exclusively with Kurdish.

To a less extent, America is also politically allied with Russia in a limited capacity in south western Syria, something which is more significant due to the shift it represents rather than in terms of size or scope.

Here are the key events:

1. US media reports that Trump ends CIA arming of terrorists

The deeply anti-Trump Washington Post has reported the following,

“President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.

Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgement of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power”.

The report adds,

“Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin”.

While the Washington Post calls this a win for Russia, in reality this will not directly effect Russia one way or another. It is however, a win for Syria.

By most reasonable accounts, the conflict in Syria could have ended far earlier if not for the CIA and other US actors arming, funding and training Salafist jihadist fighters in Syria (often referred to as moderate rebels by the western mainstream media).

As even the Washington Post admits, almost in a gloating fashion, arming such jihadists was a flagship policy of the United States under Barack Obama.

This will take a substantial deal of pressure off the Syrian Arab Army and their fight against remaining terrorists in Syria.

Ever since Trump took office, the general trajectory of US meddling in Syria shifted from arming jihadists to arming, funding and working in close military coordination with Kurdish forces.

Today’s revelation simply affirms what was long the apparent on the ground policy of the United States since February of 2017.

It is key to remember that even after this announcement, the US presence in Syria is still illegal according to international law.

2. FSA jihadists withdraw from front-line in Raqqa 

Almost simultaneous to the Washington Post report, Al-Masdar which is generally the most reliable source of on the ground information in Syria, reported the following,

“The Quwwat al-Nukhba sub-group of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which fights within the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has been dismissed from any and all front-line duties in the ongoing Raqqa operation.

About one week ago, word came out that the FSA-linked group was to give up its positions within Raqqa city and retreat to the SDF’s rear areas outside the urban center. However, contradictory reports then came in suggesting that a compromise was reached whereby the Arab faction could retain its positions within the city – this was supported by some photo evidence.

However, according to the latest reports, Quwwat al-Nukhba has officially withdrawn from all of its front-line positions within Raqqa city and handed them over to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

 Information on why the Arab militia has been booted out of the operation remains officially unclear. Nonetheless, some sources suggest that the group showed repeated incompetence during Raqqa battle, advancing quickly within the city but then withdrawing from all gains, abandoning them to ISIS, almost as soon as they were taken.

In any case, the United States – who has overall command of the SDF – represents the party that gave the order for the Arab FSA-linked faction to withdraw (perhaps at the behest of Kurdish recommendations).

This now means that the battle to capture Raqqa from ISIS has become an almost exclusively Kurdish operation”.

Raqqa is now officially a two-horse race between US backed Kurdish forces from the north and the Syrian Arab Army approaching from the west and from the south via Dier Ez-Zor, which is fast becoming a bigger hotspot of remaining ISIS fighters in Syria vis-a-vis Raqqa.

The upside of this for Syria is that the danger of a kind of semi-permanent style US funded Salafist insurgency is reduced to almost nil. This is especially true due to Syria’s strong central government vis-a-vis that of Iraq in the mid-2000s and into recent years.

With the US garrison in southern Syria located in At-Tanf now effectively cut off from the rest of the country via strong lines of control by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the US would have hit a logistical brick wall if it expended its resources continuing to arm increasingly encircled and materially ineffective jihadist groups like the FSA and its splinter groups and off-shoots.

This move also removes any scant Turkish influence from the race to Raqqa as the few FSA fighters participating in the surge represented the only people who are loyal to a group that is in great part, a Turkish proxy.

Thus, the American decision to force the withdrawal of the minor contingent of the FSA from front-line fighting in Raqqa is close to a de-facto admission that incorporating such jihadists into the final battle with the jihadists of ISIS would be an exercise in futility, one that Kurds themselves also likely oppose.

3. The Russia connection 

At present, there is no overt linkage to these events and Donald Trump’s meeting at the G20 summit with Vladimir Putin. One can however, infer a conclusion that in order to work more effectively with Russia, the United States has dropped the last vestiges of support for jihadists such as the FSA, knowing that it would have reached a similar conclusion based on sheer logistics, even if Russia and the US did not strike a deal to mutually enforce the current ceasefire in south-western Syria along with Jordan.

In this sense, it is wise to remember that hyperbolic linkages of items 1 and 2 with the Trump-Putin meeting are at best circumstantial rather than causal–pragmatic rather than overtly strategic.

This still does not solve the crisis of what Kurdish forces might want as a result of their participation in the race for Raqqa, assuming they partly or wholly win the race.

Furthermore, if Kurds demand further concessions from Damascus including increased autonomy or even independence, many suspect that the United States will strongly back Kurdish demands rather than play the part of a neutral party. This would of course be opposed not only by Syria, Iraq and Iran but most strongly by Turkey which is a traditional US ally, although one which hardly sees eye-to-eye with the US on major Middle Eastern issues ranging from Qatar to Syria.

In this sense, the United States has chosen to infuriate Turkey further, make life slightly less difficult for Syria in terms of battle-field logistics, vaguely placate Russia and most importantly, declare an increased measure of loyalty to Kurds at the expense of the many anti-Kurdish actors in the region, including several technical US allies, namely both Turkey and Iraq.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Gulf Crisis: US Admits Fake News of Russian Hacking

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.07.2017

In a sharp about-turn, US intelligence agencies are now accusing the United Arab Emirates for hacking into Qatar’s official news agency, thereby sparking the Gulf crisis between Washington’s Arab allies. The latest twist amounts to an admission that the US is guilty of previously broadcasting fake news blaming Russia.

This week, the Washington Post cites US intelligence officials when it reported Monday: «The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors».

However, last month, on June 7, the American news outlet CNN had a completely different take on the Gulf crisis, when it blamed Russia for trying to sow division between US allies in the Persian Gulf. It reported in an «exclusive» article with the headline: US suspects Russian hackers planted fake news behind Qatar crisis.

That CNN report went on to claim: «US officials say the Russian goal appears to be to cause rifts among the US and its allies. In recent months, suspected Russian cyber activities, including the use of fake news stories, have turned up amid elections in France, Germany and other countries».

While CNN hinted that the alleged Russian hackers in the Gulf could have been criminal privateers, the thrust of its report last month very much pointed the finger of blame at the Russian government for hacking into the Qatar news agency. Using assertion, speculation and anonymous sources, the alleged Russian cyber-attack on Qatar was linked to alleged meddling by the Kremlin in the US presidential election last year.

«US intelligence has long been concerned with what they say is the Russian government’s ability to plant fake news in otherwise credible streams, according to US officials», reported CNN.

But now this week, US intelligence officials have changed their tune on who they think is whipping up the Gulf crisis. It is not Russia, it is the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

«[US] Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by US intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation,» reports the Washington Post this week.

For over a month now, the UAE has aligned with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to blockade Qatar, another member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The crisis has become deadlocked with neither side willing to back down, much to the strategic concern of Washington. All of the monarchial energy-rich states are longtime allies of the US and together as a unit are a linchpin in maintaining the global petrodollar system. The other GCC members, Kuwait and Oman, have taken a neutral stance in the diplomatic crisis and have acted as brokers to resolve the dispute. Egypt, has joined with the Saudi-led bloc, to impose sanctions against Qatar.

The row blew up dramatically days after US President Donald Trump made an official state visit to Saudi Arabia on May 20-22. In exchange for a record $110-billion arms deals with the Saudi rulers, it seems clear that Trump gave the green light for the Saudis to instigate a blockade on Qatar. Ostensibly, the Saudis and the others are accusing Qatar of sponsoring terrorism and, they say, that is why they acted to isolate the neighboring gas-rich state. The absurd hypocrisy behind the accusation belies the real motive of petty rivalry among the Gulf monarchs. In particular, the Qatari-based Al Jazeera news network has been a bane for the Saudi and Egyptian rulers owing to its relatively independent and critical reporting on repression in those countries. Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood has also rankled the Saudis and Egyptians.

Two days after Trump flew out of Saudi on May 22, the official Qatari News Agency was hit with a fake news attack. Its news reports attributed statements to the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, in which he praised Iran – the Shia arch-enemy of the US-backed Sunni monarchies – as well as making critical comments about Trump.

The whole debacle was an obvious set-up. Despite urgent notices from Qatar that its new agency had been hacked with fake news, the Saudi, Bahraini and Emirati media continued to prominently report the statements as if they were genuine, with the evident intention of smearing Qatar and provoking a stand-off.

The stage was then set for Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to announce on June 5 a total embargo of commercial, media and transport links with Qatar «because of its support for terrorism and friendly relations with Iran».

US President Trump initially voiced support for the blockade on Qatar, claiming it as a success from his trip to Saudi Arabia.

«So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King [Saudi King Salman] and 50 countries already paying off», Trump smugly declared through his Twitter feed. «They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!»

But ever since Trump set off the worst crisis in the Gulf among US allies, his top diplomat Rex Tillerson has been busy trying to calm the row.

Qatar serves as the base for US Central Command in the Middle East with an airbase housing 10,000 troops. American warplanes flying out of Qatar are the main strike force for operations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Strategic planners in Washington realize that the US cannot afford to alienate Qatar.

Tillerson has diverged noticeably from Trump’s simplistic broadside supporting Saudi Arabia, and has instead sought to bring Qatar back into the GCC fold. The US Secretary of State has hinted that the Saudi-led blockade is draconian and unrealistic. On June 23, Saudi Arabia and its partners demanded that Qatar shut down the Al Jazeera network along with a dozen other ultimatums. Qatar refused.

Last week, Tillerson had a frenetic week of shuttle diplomacy flying between Qatar and Saudi Arabia to get both sides to compromise. On Friday, July 14, the former Exxon CEO returned to the US deflated, unable to break the deadlock.

While traveling back to the US, Tillerson alluded to the strategic importance at stake for Washington in maintaining Gulf Arab unity. He said it is «really important to us from a national security standpoint. We need this part of the world to be stable, and this particular conflict between these parties is obviously not helpful».

This would explain why the US has now moved to expose the Saudi-led camp as being behind the fake news hack incident against the Qatari news agency.

That disclosure undermines the Saudi-led position. It confirms what the Qataris have been saying from the outset; namely, that they have been set up for a faux crisis by Gulf rivals, whose objective is to subjugate Qatari sovereignty under Saudi tutelage. Shutting down the «offensive» Al Jazeera news station being one of the desired outcomes.

By undermining the Saudis and UAE in this way, the US is wagering that it can lever the Saudis and the others GCC members into softening their demands on Qatar.

So keen are the US military and geopolitical planners to defuse the prolonged Gulf crisis – a crisis that threatens the petrodollar system – that they were obliged to come clean about the real identify of the perpetrators of the cyber attack on Qatar. That means dishing the dirt on the Saudis and UAE as the source of the hack, and abandoning the earlier claim that Russia was to blame.

CNN is once again caught out faking news about Russian hackers. At the time of its «exclusive» last month accusing Russia of destabilizing US allies in the Gulf, the news channel at least had the decency to quote Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on the claim.

Peskov said in the June 7 report: «It is another lie.. CNN again and again publish references to unnamed sources in unnamed agencies, etc, etc. These streams of information have no connection with the reality. It is so far away from the reality. Fake is a fake».

What the whole episode shows is not just how irresponsible US intelligence officials and major media are in publishing false claims defaming Russia. It also shows them as unscrupulous and expedient.

Just because the lingering Gulf crisis is spiraling to threaten US strategic interests, only then is there a sudden switch to a version of events that more accurately reflects reality. If it weren’t for US strategic concerns in the Gulf, the fake news put out about Russian hackers would no doubt continue. Which begs the question: if Russian hackers in the Gulf is fake news, then what does that say about similar claims of Russian hacking in the US?

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Iran policies are in a cul-de-sac

By M K Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 16, 2017

“Now, as the world marks the two-year anniversary of the adoption of the nuclear agreement with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is more remote than it has been in decades … Iran’s nuclear program has been defanged and all its pathways to a bomb blocked… Two years later, the results are in, and they show the effort has been a clear success.”

At first glance, the above might seem a triumphalist narrative by the former US President Barack Obama – or his Secretary of State John Kerry. But, they actually happen to be excerpts from an opinion piece in Foreign Policy magazine on Thursday, penned by Carmi Gillon, formerly the director of Israel’s General Security Service, the Shin Bet, whose responsibility it was to counter the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

While it is too much to expect the Trump administration or a large section of America’s political elites to show the moral courage and honesty that the erstwhile Israeli spymaster has shown, it is nonetheless soothing to the nerves that the US State Department will “very likely” notify Congress on Monday that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

President Donald Trump could have fulfilled by now his campaign pledge to “rip up” what he called “the worst deal ever”. But he hasn’t. Instead, he is walking a fine line.

On one hand, he has acquiesced with the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions while, on the other hand, he is desperately keen to maintain and even reinforce the sanctions regime on different grounds – relating it to Iran’s missile program or its human right record and regional policies.

Trump did not stop Iran’s big multi-billion dollar landmark deal to buy aircraft from Boeing. Nor did he try to prevail upon French President Emmanuel Macron to stop oil major Total from concluding a mega deal with Iran to develop the South Pars gas fields.

To be sure, the Trump administration can draw vicarious satisfaction that Iran’s nuclear program has been contained and is under strict international scrutiny and yet Tehran is unable to receive ‘peace dividends’ in terms of substantial economic benefits.

There is no scope to renegotiate the JCPOA to bring non-nuclear issues within its ambit. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani outlined this point when he said in May that the deal is multilateral and irreversible, as it would be tantamount to “saying we should turn a shirt back to cotton.”

The European Union stance largely concurs with the Iranian view. Russia and China are strong supporters of the JCPOA. Thus, the US is pretty much on its own if it undercuts or derails the JCPOA, an option that exists only in principle.

Quite obviously, although normalization of relations between the US and Iran is not on the cards, that does not prevent Trump administration officials from attending the meetings of the monitoring mechanism of ‘world powers’ on the implementation of the JCPOA, where US and Iranian representatives come face to face on a regular basis.

The point is, even the JCPOA’s most trenchant critics admit grudgingly that the deal has had a positive impact. Gillon wrote:

“In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after leading a vociferous international campaign against the agreement, now remains mostly silent on the subject. And while the majority of my colleagues in the Israeli military and intelligence communities supported the deal once it was reached, many of those who had major reservations now acknowledge that it has had a positive impact on Israel’s security and must be fully maintained by the United States and the other signatory nations.”

All in all, therefore, the Trump administration is coming to recognize it must implement the JCPOA, no matter the outcome of the National Security Council-led review of the deal that is evaluating whether the suspension of sanctions against Iran under the agreement is ‘vital to the national security interests of the United States’.

Anything else will be motiveless spite. The big question is whether the Trump administration sees the writing on the wall? Of course, it is capable of showing realism – the hint of a rethink on the Paris agreement on climate change or the belated articulation of commitment to Article 5 of the NATO charter are recent examples.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s project to isolate Iran by creating an ‘Arab NATO’ and by creating an Arab-Israeli alliance against it is unlikely to take off. The rift between Qatar and the boycotting states creates a new quandary in regional politics.

Washington helplessly watches the unraveling of the Gulf Cooperation Council as contradictions in Saudi Arabia’s regional leadership grow in ways no one imagined possible until a month ago.

Iran’s cooperation is badly needed if the crisis in Syria and Iraq (and Yemen and Bahrain) is to be effectively managed. In Syria, the Trump administration outsources to Moscow the responsibility of bringing Iran on board. But it is not an option in the other three theatres.

The sooner realism prevails, the better. A beginning could be made on Monday when Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be in New York to attend the High-Level Political Forum under UN auspices.

Four years ago, on the sidelines of the same annual UN meeting, Kerry met Zarif and set the ball rolling on negotiations that culminated in the JCPOA on July 15, 2015.

Fresh from the mediatory mission to the Gulf, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson must be in a chastened mood. A meeting with Zarif is just what is needed to inject a much-needed realism into the US’ Middle East policies. Even Israel must be quietly pleased.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | July 18, 2017

A weakened, even desperate President Donald Trump must decide whether to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or to repudiate the Syrian partial ceasefire, which Trump hammered out with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7.

 (Official White House Photo by Dan Hansen)

Whether intentionally or not, this crossroads is where the months of Russia-gate hysteria have led the United States, making Trump even more vulnerable to Israeli and neoconservative pressure and making any cooperation with Russia more dangerous for him politically.

After meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Sunday, Netanyahu declared that Israel was totally opposed to the Trump-Putin cease-fire deal in southern Syria because it perpetuates Iranian presence in Syria in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Netanyahu’s position increases pressure on Trump to escalate U.S. military involvement in Syria and possibly move toward war against Iran and even Russia. The American neocons, who generally move in sync with Netanyahu’s wishes, already have as their list of current goals “regime changes” in Damascus, Tehran and Moscow – regardless of the dangers to the Middle East and indeed the world.

At the G-20 summit on July 7, Trump met for several hours with Putin coming away with an agreed-upon cease-fire for southwestern Syria, an accord that has proven more successful than previous efforts to reduce the violence that has torn the country apart since 2011.

But that limited peace could mean failure for the proxy war that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other regional players helped launch six years ago with the goal of removing Assad from power and shattering the so-called “Shiite crescent” from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut. Instead, that “crescent” appears more firmly in place, with Assad’s military bolstered by Shiite militia forces from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In other words, the “regime change” gambit against Assad’s government would have backfired, with Iranian and Hezbollah forces arrayed along Israel’s border with Syria. And instead of accepting that reversal and seeking some modus vivendi with Iran, Netanyahu and his Sunni-Arab allies (most notably the Saudi monarchy) have decided to go in the other direction (a wider war) and to bring President Trump along with them.

Neophyte Trump

Trump – a relative neophyte in global intrigue – has been slow to comprehend how his outreach to Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman runs counter to his collaboration with Putin on efforts to defeat the Sunni jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which have served as the point of the spear in the war to overthrow Assad.

Al Qaeda and Islamic State have received direct and indirect support from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Turkey, Israel and even the Obama administration, albeit sometimes unwittingly. To block Assad’s overthrow – and the likely victory by these terror groups – Russia, Iran and Hezbollah came to Assad’s defense, helping to turn the tide of the war since 2015.

In his nearly half year in office, Trump has maintained an open hostility toward Iran – sharing a position held by Washington’s neocons as well as Netanyahu and Salman – but the U.S. President also has advocated cooperation with Russia to crush Islamic State and Al Qaeda inside Syria.

Collaboration with Russia – and indirectly with Iran and the Syrian military – makes sense for most U.S. interests, i.e., stabilizing Syria, reversing the refugee flow that has destabilized Europe, and denying Al Qaeda and Islamic State a base for launching terror strikes against Western targets.

But the same collaboration would be a bitter defeat for Netanyahu and Salman who have invested heavily in this and other “regime change” projects that require major U.S. investments in terms of diplomacy, money and military manpower.

So, in last weekend’s trip to Paris, Netanyahu chose to raise the stakes on Trump at a time when Democrats and the U.S. mainstream media are pounding him daily with the Russia-gate scandal, even raising the possibility that his son, Donald Trump Jr., might be prosecuted and imprisoned for having a meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer.

If Trump wants the Russia-gate pain to lessen, he will be tempted to give Netanyahu what he wants and count on the savvy Israeli leader to intervene with the influential neocons of Official Washington to pull back on the scandal-mongering.

The problem, however, would be that Netanyahu really wants the U.S. military to complete the “regime change” project in Syria – much as it did in Iraq and Libya – meaning more American dead, more American treasure expended and a likely wider war, extending to Iran and possibly nuclear-armed Russia.

That might fulfill the neocon current menu of “regime change” schemes but it runs the risk of unleashing a nuclear conflagration on the world. In that way, liberals and even some progressives – who have embraced Russia-gate as a way to remove the hated Donald Trump from office – may end up contributing to the end of human civilization as well.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Myth of the Kurdish YPG’s Moral Excellence

By Stephen Gowans | what’s left | July 11, 2017

A barbed criticism aimed at the International Socialist Organization, shown nearby, under the heading “If the ISO Existed in 1865” encompasses a truth about the orientation of large parts of the Western Left to the Arab nationalist government in Damascus. The truth revealed in the graphic is that the ISO and its cognates will leave no stone unturned in their search for an indigenous Syrian force to support that has taken up arms against Damascus, even to the point of insisting that a group worthy of support must surely exist, even if it can’t be identified.

If the ISO existed in 1865.

Of course, Washington lends a hand, helpfully denominating its proxies in the most laudatory terms. Islamist insurgents in Syria, mainly Al Qaeda, were not too many years ago celebrated as a pro-democracy movement, and when that deception proved no longer tenable, as moderates.

Now that the so-called moderates have been exposed as the very opposite, many Leftists cling to the hope that amid the Islamist opponents of Syria’s secular, Arab socialist, government, can be found votaries of the enlightenment values Damascus already embraces. Surely somewhere there exist armed anti-government secular Leftists to rally behind; for it appears that the goal is to find a reason, any reason, no matter how tenuous, to create a nimbus of moral excellence around some group that opposes with arms the government in Damascus; some group that can be made to appear to be non-sectarian, anti-imperialist, socialist, committed to the rights of women and minorities, and pro-Palestinian; in other words, a group just like Syria’s Ba’ath Arab Socialists, except not them.

Stepping forward to fulfill that hope is the PKK, an anarchist guerrilla group demonized as a terrorist organization when operating in Turkey against a US ally, but which goes by the name of the YPG in Syria, where it is the principal component of the lionized “Syrian Democratic Force.” So appealing is the YPG to many Western Leftists that some have gone so far as to volunteer to fight in its units. But is the YPG the great hope it’s believed it to be?

Kurds in Syria

It’s difficult to determine with precision how many Kurds are in Syria, but it’s clear that the ethnic group comprises only a small percentage of the Syrian population (less than 10 percent according to the CIA, and 8.5 percent according to an estimate cited by Nikolaos Van Dam in his book The Struggle for Power in Syria. [1]

Estimates of the proportion of the total Kurd population living in Syria vary from two to seven percent based on population figures presented in the CIA World Factbook. Half of the Kurd community lives in Turkey, 28 percent in Iran and 20 percent in Iraq. A declassified 1972 US State Department report estimated that only between four and five percent of the world’s Kurds lived in Syria [2].

While the estimates are rough, it’s clear that Kurds make up a fairly small proportion of the Syrian population and that the number of the group’s members living in Syria as a proportion of the Kurd community as a whole is very small.


The PKK

Kurdish fighters in Syria operate under the name of the YPG, which is “tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a radical guerrilla movement combining [anarchist ideas] with Kurdish nationalism. PKK guerrillas [have] fought the Turkish state from 1978” and the PKK is “classified as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Turkey and the U.S.” [3]

Cemil Bayik is the top field commander of both the PKK in Turkey and of its Syrian incarnation, the YPG. Bayik “heads the PKK umbrella organization, the KCK, which unites PKK affiliates in different countries. All follow the same leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been in prison in Turkey” [4] since 1999, when he was apprehended by Turkish authorities with CIA assistance.

Ocalan “was once a devotee of Marxism-Leninism,” according to Carne Ross, who wrote a profile of the Kurdish nationalist leader in The Financial Times in 2015. But Ocalan “came to believe that, like capitalism, communism perforce relied upon coercion.” Imprisoned on an island in the Sea of Marmara, Ocalan discovered “the masterwork of a New York political thinker named Murray Bookchin.” Bookchin “believed that true democracy could only prosper when decision-making belonged to the local community and was not monopolized by distant and unaccountable elites.” Government was desirable, reasoned Bookchin, but decision-making needed to be decentralized and inclusive. While anarchist, Bookchin preferred to call his approach “communalism”. Ocalan adapted Bookchin’s ideas to Kurd nationalism, branding the new philosophy “democratic confederalism.” [5]

Labor Zionism has similar ideas about a political system based on decentralized communes, but is, at its core, a nationalist movement. Similarly, Ocalan’s views cannot be understood outside the framework of Kurdish nationalism. The PKK may embrace beautiful utopian goals of democratic confederalism but it is, at its heart, an organization dedicated to establishing Kurdish self-rule—and, as it turns out, not only on traditionally Kurdish territory, but on Arab territory, as well, making the parallel with Labour Zionism all the stronger. In both Syria and Iraq, Kurdish fighters have used the campaign against ISIS as an opportunity to extend Kurdistan into traditionally Arab territories in which Kurds have never been in the majority.

The PKK’s goal, writes The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher, “is a confederation of self-rule Kurdish-led enclaves in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey” [6] countries in which Kurdish populations have a presence, though, as we’ve seen, an insignificant one in Syria. In pursuit of this goal “as many as 5,000 Syrian Kurds have died fighting alongside the PKK since the mid-1980s, and nearly all of YPG’s top leaders and battle-hardened fighters are veterans of the decades-long struggle against Turkey.” [7]

In Syria, the PKK’s goal “is to establish a self-ruled region in northern Syria,” [8] an area with a significant Arab population.

When PKK fighters cross the border into Turkey, they become ‘terrorists’, according to the United States and European Union, but when they cross back into Syria they are miraculously transformed into ‘guerrilla” fighters waging a war for democracy as the principal component of the Syrian Democratic Force. The reality is, however, that whether on the Turkish or Syrian side of the border, the PKK uses the same methods, pursues the same goals, and relies largely on the same personnel. The YPG is the PKK.

An Opportunity

Washington has long wanted to oust the Arab nationalists in Syria, regarding them as “a focus of Arab nationalist struggle against an American regional presence and interests,” as Amos Ma’oz once put it. The Arab nationalists, particularly the Ba’ath Arab Socialist party, in power since 1963, represent too many things Washington deplores: socialism, Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism. Washington denounced Hafez al-Assad, president of Syria from 1970 to 2000, as an Arab communist, and regards his son, Bashar, who succeeded him as president, as little different. Bashar, the State Department complains, hasn’t allowed the Syrian economy—based on Soviet models, its researchers say—to be integrated into the US-superintended global economy. Plus, Washington harbors grievances about Damascus’s support for Hezbollah and the Palestinian national liberation movement.

US planners decided to eliminate Asia’s Arab nationalists by invading their countries, first Iraq, in 2003, which, like Syria, was led by the Ba’ath Arab Socialists, and then Syria. However, the Pentagon soon discovered that its resources were strained by resistance to its occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that an invasion of Syria was out of the question. As an alternative, Washington immediately initiated a campaign of economic warfare against Syria. That campaign, still in effect 14 years later, would eventually buckle the economy and prevent Damascus from providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country. At the same time, Washington took steps to reignite the long-running holy war that Syria’s Islamists had waged on the secular state, dating to the 1960s and culminating in the bloody takeover of Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city, in 1982. Beginning in 2006, Washington worked with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood to rekindle the Brother’s jihad against Assad’s secular government. The Brothers had two meetings at the White House, and met frequently with the State Department and National Security Council.

The outbreak of Islamist violence in March of 2011 was greeted by the PKK as an opportunity. As The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov recounts, “The PKK, once an ally of… Damascus… had long been present among Kurdish communities in northern Syria. When the revolutionary tide reached Syria, the group’s Syrian affiliate quickly seized control of three Kurdish-majority regions along the Turkish frontier. PKK fighters and weapons streamed there from other parts of Kurdistan.”[9] The “Syrian Kurds,” wrote Trofimov’s colleagues, Joe Parkinson and Ayla Albayrak, viewed “the civil war as an opportunity to carve out a self-governing enclave—similar to the one established by their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.” [10] That enclave, long backed by the United States and Israel, was seen as a means of weakening the Iraqi state.

Damascus facilitated the PKK take-over by withdrawing its troops from Kurdish-dominated areas. The Middle East specialist Patrick Seale, who wrote that the Kurds had “seized the opportunity” of the chaos engendered by the Islamist uprising “to boost their own political agenda” [11] speculated that the Syrian government’s aims in pulling back from Kurd-majority areas was to redirect “troops for the defence of Damascus and Aleppo;” punish Turkey for its support of Islamist insurgents; and “to conciliate the Kurds, so as to dissuade them from joining the rebels.” [12] The PKK, as it turns out, didn’t join the Islamist insurgents, as Damascus hoped. But they did join a more significant part of the opposition to Arab nationalist Syria: the puppet master itself, the United States.

By 2014, the PKK had “declared three self-rule administrations, or cantons as they call them, in northern Syria: Afreen, in the northwest, near the city of Aleppo; Kobani; and Jazeera in the northeast, which encompasses Ras al-Ain and the city of Qamishli. Their goal [was] to connect all three.” [13] This would mean controlling the intervening spaces occupied by Arabs.

A Deal with Washington

At this point, the PKK decided that its political goals might best be served by striking a deal with Washington.

The State Department had “allowed for the possibility of a form of decentralization in which different groups” — the Kurds, the secular government, and the Islamist insurgents — each received some autonomy within Syria. [14] Notice the implicit assumption in this view that it is within Washington’s purview to grant autonomy within Syria, while the question of whether the country ought to decentralize, properly within the democratic ambit of Syrians themselves, is denied to the people who live and work in Syria. If we are to take seriously Ocalan’s Bookchin-inspired ideas about investing decision-making authority in the people, this anti-democratic abomination can hardly be tolerated.

All the same, the PKK was excited by the US idea of dividing “Syria into zones roughly corresponding to areas now held by the government, the Islamic State, Kurdish militias and other insurgents.” A “federal system” would be established, “not only for Kurdish-majority areas but for all of Syria.” A Kurd federal region would be created “on all the territory now held by the” PKK. The zone would expand to include territory the Kurds hoped “to capture in battle, not only from ISIS but also from other Arab insurgent groups.” [15]

The PKK “pressed U.S. officials” to act on the scheme, pledging to act as a ground force against ISIS in return. [16] The group said it was “eager to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in return for recognition and support from Washington and its allies for the Kurdish-dominated self-rule administrations they [had] established in northern Syria.” [17]

The only people pleased with this plan were the PKK, the Israelis and the Americans.

“US support for these Kurdish groups” not only in Syria, but in Iraq, where the Kurds were also exploiting the battle with ISIS to expand their rule into traditionally Arab areas, helped “to both divide Syria and divide Iraq,” wrote The Independent’s veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk. [18] Division redounded to the benefit of the United States and Israel, both of which have an interest in pursuing a divide and rule policy to exercise a joint hegemony over the Arab world. Patrick Seale remarked that the US-Kurd plan for Kurdish rule in northern Syria had been met by “quiet jubilation in Israel, which has long had a semi-clandestine relationship with the Kurds, and welcomes any development which might weaken or dismember Syria.” [19]

For their part, the Turks objected, perceiving that Washington had agreed to give the PKK a state in all of northern Syria. [20] Meanwhile, Damascus opposed the plan, “seeing it as a step toward a permanent division of the nation.” [21]

Modern-day Syria, it should be recalled, is already the product of a division of Greater Syria at the hands of the British and French, who partitioned the country into Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, and what is now Syria. In March, 1920, the second Syrian General Congress proclaimed “Syria to be completely independent within her ‘natural’ boundaries, including Lebanon and Palestine.” Concurrently “an Arab delegation in Palestine confronted the British military governor with a resolution opposing Zionism and petitioning to become part of an independent Syria.” [22] France sent its Army of the Levant, mainly troops recruited from its Senegalese colony, to quash by force the Levantine Arabs’ efforts to establish self-rule.

Syria, already truncated by British and French imperial machinations after WWI “is too small for a federal state,” opines Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. But Assad quickly adds that his personal view is irrelevant; a question as weighty as whether Syria ought to become a federal or confederal or unitary state, he says, is a matter for Syrians to decide in a constitutional referendum, [23] a refreshingly democratic view in contrast to the Western position that Washington should dictate how Syrians arrange their political (and economic) affairs.

Tip of the US Spear

For Washington, the PKK offers a benefit additional to the Kurdish guerrilla group’s utility in advancing the US goal of weakening Syria by fracturing it, namely, the PKK can be pressed into service as a surrogate for the US Army, obviating the necessity of deploying tens of thousands of US troops to Syria, and thereby allowing the White House and Pentagon to side-step a number of legal, budgetary and public relations quandaries. “The situation underscores a critical challenge the Pentagon faces,” wrote The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne; namely, “backing local forces… instead of putting American troops at the tip of the spear.” [24]

Having pledged support for Kurdish rule of northern Syria in return for the PKK becoming the tip of the US spear, the United States is “providing “small arms, ammunition and machine guns, and possibly some nonlethal assistance, such as light trucks, to the Kurdish forces.” [25]

The arms are “parceled out” in a so called “drop, op, and assess” approach. The shipments are “dropped, an operation [is] performed, and the U.S. [assesses] the success of that mission before providing more arms.” Said a US official, “We will be supplying them only with enough arms and ammo to accomplish each interim objective.” [26]

PKK foot soldiers are backed by “more than 750 U.S. Marines,” Army Rangers, and US, French and German Special Forces, “using helicopters, artillery and airstrikes,” the Western marionette-masters in Syria illegally, in contravention of international law. [27]

Ethnic Cleansing

“Large numbers of Arab residents populate the regions Kurds designate as their own.” [28] The PKK has taken “over a large swath of territory across northern Syria—including predominantly Arab cities and towns.” [29] Raqqa, and surrounding parts of the Euphrates Valley on which the PKK has set its sights, are mainly populated by Arabs, observes The Independent’s veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn—and the Arabs are opposed to Kurdish occupation. [30]

Kurdish forces are not only “retaking” Christian and Muslim Arab towns in Syria, but are doing the same in the Nineveh province of Iraq—areas “which were never Kurdish in the first place. Kurds now regard Qamishleh, and Hassakeh province in Syria as part of ‘Kurdistan’, although they represent a minority in many of these areas.” [31]

The PKK now controls 20,000 square miles of Syrian territory [32], or roughly 17 percent of the country, while Kurds represent less than eight percent of the population.

In their efforts to create a Kurdish region inside Syria, the PKK “has been accused of abuses by Arab civilians across northern Syria, including arbitrary arrests and displacing Arab populations in the name of rolling back Islamic State.” [33] The PKK “has expelled Arabs and ethnic Turkmen from large parts of northern Syria,” reports The Wall Street Journal. [34] The Journal additionally notes that human rights “groups have accused [Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish fighters] of preventing Arabs from returning to liberated areas.” [35]

Neither Syrian nor Democratic

The PKK dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces, a misnomer conferred upon a group of mainly Kurdish fighters by its US patron. The group is not Syrian, since many of its members are non-Syrians who identify as Kurds and who flooded over the border from Turkey to take advantage of the chaos produced by the Islamist insurgency in Syria to carve out an area of Kurdish control. Nor is the group particularly democratic, since it seeks to impose Kurdish rule on Arab populations. Robert Fisk dismisses the “Syrian Democratic Forces” as a “facade-name for large numbers of Kurds and a few Arab fighters.” [36]

The PKK poses as a Syrian Democratic Force, and works with a token force of Syrian Arab fighters, to disguise the reality that the Arab populated areas it controls, and those it has yet to capture, fall under Kurd occupation.

A De Facto (and Illegal) No Fly Zone

In August, 2016, after “Syrian government bombers had been striking Kurdish positions near the city of Hasakah, where the U.S. [had] been backing Kurdish forces” the Pentagon scrambled “jets to protect them. The U.S. jets arrived just as the two Syrian government Su-24 bombers were departing.” This “prompted the U.S.-led coalition to begin patrolling the airspace over Hasakah, and led to another incident… in which two Syrian Su-24 bombers attempted to fly through the area but were met by coalition fighter jets.” [37]

The Pentagon “warned the Syrians to stay away. American F-22 fighter jets drove home the message by patrolling the area.” [38]

The New York Times observed that in using “airpower to safeguard areas of northern Syria where American advisers” direct PKK fighters that the United States had effectively established a no-fly zone over the area, but noted that “the Pentagon has steadfastly refused to” use the term. [39] Still, the reality is that the Pentagon has illegally established a de facto no-fly zone over northern Syria to protect PKK guerillas, the tip of the US spear, who are engaged in a campaign of creating a partition of Syria, including through ethnic cleansing of the Arab population, to the delight of Israel and in accordance with US designs to weaken Arab nationalism in Damascus.

An Astigmatic Analogy

Some find a parallel in the YPG’s alliance with the United States with Lenin accepting German aid to return from exile in Switzerland to Russia following the 1917 March Revolution. The analogy is inapt. Lenin was playing one imperialist power off against another. Syria is hardly an analogue of Imperial Russia, which, one hundred years ago, was locked in a struggle for markets, resources, and spheres of influence with contending empires. In contrast, Syria is and has always been a country partitioned, dominated, exploited and threatened by empires. It has been emancipated from colonialism, and is carrying on a struggle—now against the contrary efforts of the PKK—to resist its recolonization.

The PKK has struck a bargain with the United States to achieve its goal of establishing a Kurdish national state, but at the expense of Syria’s efforts to safeguard its independence from a decades-long US effort to deny it. The partition of Syria along ethno-sectarian lines, desired by the PKK, Washington and Tel Aviv alike, serves both US and Israeli goals of weakening a focus of opposition to the Zionist project and US domination of West Asia.

A more fitting analogy, equates the PKK in Syria to Labor Zionism, the dominant Zionist force in occupied Palestine until the late 1970s. Like Ocalan, early Zionism emphasized decentralized communes. The kibbutzim were utopian communities, whose roots lay in socialism. Like the PKK’s Syrian incarnation, Labor Zionism relied on sponsorship by imperialist powers, securing their patronage by offering to act as the tips of the imperialists’ spears in the Arab world. Zionists employed armed conquest of Arab territory, along with ethnic cleansing and denial of repatriation, to establish an ethnic state, anticipating the PKK’s extension by armed force of the domain of a Kurdish state into Arab majority territory in Syria, as well as Kurd fighters doing the same in Iraq. Anarchists and other leftists may have been inspired by Jewish collective agricultural communities in Palestine, but that hardly made the Zionist project progressive or emancipatory, since its progressive and emancipatory elements were negated by its regressive oppression and dispossession of the indigenous Arab population, and its collusion with Western imperialism against the Arab world.

Conclusion

Representing an ethnic community that comprises less than 10 percent of the Syrian population, the PKK, a Kurdish anarchist guerrilla group which operates in both Turkey and Syria, is using the United States, its Air Force, Marine Corps, Army Rangers and Special Forces troops, as a force multiplier in an effort to impose a partition of Syria in which the numerically insignificant Kurd population controls a significant part of Syria’s territory, including areas inhabited by Arabs in the majority and in which Kurds have never been in the majority. To accomplish its aims, the PKK has not only struck a deal with a despotic regime in Washington which seeks to recolonize the Arab world, but is relying on ethnic cleansing and denial of repatriation of Arabs from regions from which they’ve fled or have been driven to establish Kurdish control of northern Syria, tactics which parallel those used by Zionist forces in 1948 to create a Jewish state in Arab-majority Palestine. Washington and Israel (the latter having long maintained a semi-clandestine relationship with the Kurds) value a confederal system for Syria as a means of weakening Arab nationalist influence in Arab Asia, undermining a pole of opposition to Zionism, colonialism, and the international dictatorship of the United States. Forces which resist dictatorship, including the most odious one of all, that of the United States over much of the world, are the real champions of democracy, a category to which the PKK, as evidenced by its actions in Syria, does not belong.

1. Nikolaos Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Assad and the Ba’ath Party, IB Taurus, 2011, p.1.

2. “The Kurds of Iraq: Renewed Insurgency?”, US Department of State, May 31, 1972, https://2001-2009.state.gove/documents/organization/70896.pdf

3. Sam Dagher, “Kurds fight Islamic State to claim a piece of Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2014.

4. Patrick Cockburn, “War against ISIS: PKK commander tasked with the defence of Syrian Kurds claims ‘we will save Kobani’”, The Independent, November 11, 2014.

5. Carne Ross, “Power to the people: A Syrian experiment in democracy,” Financial Times, October 23, 2015.

6. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

7. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

8. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

9. Yaroslav Trofimov, “The State of the Kurds,” The Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2015.

10. Joe Parkinson and Ayla Albayrak, “Syrian Kurds grow more assertive”, The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2013.

11. Patrick Seale, “Al Assad uses Kurds to fan regional tensions”, Gulf News, August 2, 2012.

12. Seale, August 2, 2012.

13. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

14. David E. Sanger, “Legacy of a secret pact haunts efforts to end war in Syria,” the New York Times, May 16, 2016.

15. Anne Barnard, “Syrian Kurds hope to establish a federal region in country’s north,” The New York Times, March 16, 2016.

16. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

17. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

18. Robert Fisk, “This is the aim of Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – and it isn’t good for Shia communities,” The Independent, May 18, 2017.

19. Seale, August 2, 2012.

20. Yaroslav Trofimov, “U.S. is caught between ally Turkey and Kurdish partner in Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2017.

21. Anne Barnard, “Syrian Kurds hope to establish a federal region in country’s north,” The New York Times, March 16, 2016.

22. David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, Henry Holt & Company, 2009, p. 437.

23. “President al-Assad to RIA Novosti and Sputnik: Syria is not prepared for federalism,” SANA, March 30, 2016.

24. Paul Sonne, “U.S. seeks Sunni forces to take militant hub,” The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2016.

25. Dion Nissenbaum, Gordon Lubold and Julian E. Barnes, “Trump set to arm Kurds in ISIS fight, angering Turkey,” The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2017.

26. Nissenbaum et al, May 9, 2017.

27. Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib, “Syria’s newest flashpoint is bringing US and Iran face to face,” The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2017; “Syria condemns presence of French and German special forces in Ain al-Arab and Manbij as overt unjustified aggression on Syria’s sovereignty and independence,” SANA, June 15, 2016; Michael R. Gordon. “U.S. is sending 400 more troops to Syria.” The New York Times. March 9, 2017.

28. Matt Bradley, Ayla Albayrak, and Dana Ballout, “Kurds declare ‘federal region’ in Syria, says official,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2016.

29. Maria Abi-Habib and Raja Abdulrahim, “Kurd-led force homes in on ISIS bastion with assent of U.S. and Syria alike,” The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017.

30. Patrick Cockburn, “Battle for Raqqa: Fighters begin offensive to push Isis out of Old City,” The Independent, July 7, 2017.

31. Robert Fisk, “This is the aim of Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – and it isn’t good for Shia communities,” The Independent, May 18, 2017.

32. Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib, “U.S. split over plan to take Raqqa from Islamic state,” The Wall Street Journal. March 9, 2017.

33. Raja Abdulrahim, Maria Abi_Habin and Dion J. Nissenbaum, “U.S.-backed forces in Syria launch offensive to seize ISIS stronghold Raqqa,” The Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2016.

34. Margherita Stancati and Alia A. Nabhan, “During Mosul offensive, Kurdish fighters clear Arab village, demolish homes,” The Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2016.

35. Matt Bradley, Ayla Albayrak, and Dana Ballout, “Kurds declare ‘federal region’ in Syria, says official,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2016.

36. Robert Fisk, “The US seems keener to strike at Syria’s Assad than it does to destroy ISIS,” The Independent, June 20, 2017.

37. Paul Sonne and Raja Abdulrahim, “Pentagon warns Assad regime to avoid action near U.S. and allied forces,” The Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2016.

38. Michael R. Gordon and Neil MacFarquhar, “U.S. election cycle offers Kremlin a window of opportunity in Syria,” The New York Times, October 4, 2016.

39. Michael R. Gordon and Neil MacFarquhar, “U.S. election cycle offers Kremlin a window of opportunity in Syria,” The New York Times, October 4, 2016.

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Military Spending Boost Threatens Our Economy and Security

By Ron Paul | July 17, 2017

On Friday the House overwhelmingly approved a massive increase in military spending, passing a $696 billion National Defense Authorization bill for 2018. President Trump’s request already included a huge fifty or so billion dollar spending increase, but the Republican-led House found even that to be far too small. They added another $30 billion to the bill for good measure. Even President Trump, in his official statement, expressed some concern over spending in the House-passed bill.

According to the already weak limitations on military spending increases in the 2011 “sequestration” law, the base military budget for 2018 would be $72 billion more than allowed.

Don’t worry, they’ll find a way to get around that!

The big explosion in military spending comes as the US is planning to dramatically increase its military actions overseas. The president is expected to send thousands more troops back to Afghanistan, the longest war in US history. After nearly 16 years, the Taliban controls more territory than at anytime since the initial US invasion and ISIS is seeping into the cracks created by constant US military action in the country.

The Pentagon and Defense Secretary James Mattis are already telling us that even when ISIS is finally defeated in Iraq, the US military doesn’t dare end its occupation of the country again. Look for a very expensive array of permanent US military bases throughout the country. So much for our 2003 invasion creating a stable democracy, as the neocons promised.

In Syria, the United States has currently established at least eight military bases even though it has no permission to do so from the Syrian government nor does it have a UN resolution authorizing the US military presence there. Pentagon officials have made it clear they will continue to occupy Syrian territory even after ISIS is defeated, to “stabilize” the region.

And let’s not forget that Washington is planning to send the US military back to Libya, another US intervention we were promised would be stabilizing but that turned out to be a disaster.

Also, the drone wars continue in Somalia and elsewhere, as does the US participation in Saudi Arabia’s horrific two year war on impoverished Yemen.

President Trump often makes encouraging statements suggesting that he shares some of our non-interventionist views. For example while Congress was shoveling billions into an already bloated military budget last week, President Trump said that he did not want to spend trillions more dollars in the Middle East where we get “nothing” for our efforts. He’d rather fix roads here in the US, he said. The only reason we are there, he said, was to “get rid of terrorists,” after which we can focus on our problems at home.

Unfortunately President Trump seems to be incapable of understanding that it is US intervention and occupation of foreign countries that creates instability and feeds terrorism. Continuing to do the same thing for more than 17 years – more US bombs to “stabilize” the Middle East – and expecting different results is hardly a sensible foreign policy. It is insanity. Until he realizes that our military empire is the source of rather than the solution to our problems, we will continue to wildly spend on our military empire until the dollar collapses and we are brought to our knees. Then what?

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | 2 Comments